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Twenty years of haunting eidetic imagery: where's the ghost?

  • Ralph Norman Haber (a1)

This paper is a theoretical analysis of eidetic imagery, based upon the author's ten-year study of elementary-school-aged children. The presence of eidetic imagery is inferred from reports of persisting visual images of stimuli when they are no longer in view. According to the criteria for differentiating eidetic images from afterimages, eidetic images should occur even when saccadic eye movements are made during exposure to the stimulus; it should be possible to make saccadic eye movements while one is reporting the image without the image also moving; the image should last long, and it should be positive. The criteria for differentiating eidetic images from nonvisual memorial representations include: reports of seeing an image projected onto a surface in space, the consistent use of present tense when reporting images as opposed to past tense when reporting from nonvisual memory, and the ability to superimpose two images and report the composite image.

Eidetic images are only available to a small percentage of children 6–12 years old, and are virtually nonexistent in adults. However, extensive research has failed to demonstrate consistent correlates between the presence of eidetic imagery and any cognitive, intellectual, neurological, or emotional measure. The negative correlation between eidetic imagery and age has prompted hypotheses to explain eidetic imagery as a developmentally less mature memorial representation, which is gradually replaced by more abstract representations as the child acquires abstract thought, reading, and more advanced cognitive abilities. The evidence in the present review casts doubt on this hypothesis on numerous grounds: an extensive longitudinal study over the entire span of elementary school years found that eidetic abilities remain remarkably stable; there is no correlation between eidetic imagery and abstract thinking or reading performance; there is no higher incidence in preschool ages, among retarded or brain-injured subjects, or among illiterate subjects in crosscultural studies.

It is concluded that we should not abandon work on eidetic imagery or simply force it into a preconceived mold of what memory must be, but rather, expand work on the phenomenological indicators of perception and memory.

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The literature on eidetic imagery spans nearly a century, several languages, and many topics; I have attempted to collect a complete bibliography of works written or published between 1900 and 1978. I have subdivided it into five headings: primary sources of empirical data on eidetic imagery, individual case studies of subjects with eidetic imagery, theoretical and review articles on eidetic imagery and related topics, cross-cultural studies of eidetic imagery, and studies on eidetic imagery using neurologically impaired subjects. In the article I have referred to a few theoretical papers on other topics, and these have been included in a final category of general references. Of course, many of the articles reporting new data also have theoretical discussions, but I have not listed them twice. Within the big categories of data and theory, I have divided the references appearing before and after 1964, as this date reflects a substantial change in methodology.

Empirical studies of eidetic imagery – pre-1964

Ahsen A. (1959) Hemispheric experiments on eidetic images of parents. Paper presented at the Pakistan Science Conference. [AA]
Ahsen A. (1962) Eidetic images: a study of imagery steps for the evocation of mental structures. Paper presented at the Psychological Society, Rawalpindi. [AA]
Allport G. W. (1924) Eidetic imagery. British Journal of Psychology. 15: 99120. [AA, RNH, DHH, IL, DM, CR]
Allport G. W. (1928) The eidetic image and the afterimage. American Journal of Psychology. 41: 418–25. [RNH, CR]
Bonté T. H. (1933) Über die Suggestibilität von Eidetikern und Nichteidetikern (The suggestibility of eidetikers and noneidetikers). Zeitschrift für angewandte Psychologic 44: 161–92. [RNH]
Freiling H. (1923) Über die raumlichen Wahrnehmungen der Jugendlichen in der eidetischen Entwicklungsphase (The spatial perception of the young in eidetic development). Zeitschrift für Sinnesphysiologie. 55: 69132. [RNH]
Gengerelli J. A. (1930) Some quantitative experiments with eidetic imagery. American Journal of Psychology. 42: 399404. [RNH]
Jaensch E. R. (1922a) Über die subjektiven Anschauungsbilder (On subjective imagery). Bericht über den Kongress für experimentelle Psychologie. 7: 3. [RNH]
Jaensch E. R. (1922b) Die Volkerkunde und der eidetische Tatsachenkries (Anthropology and eidetic phenomena). Zeitschrift für Psychologie. 91: 88111. [RNH]
Jaensch E. R. (1930) Eidetic imagery and typological methods of investigation. Translated by Oeser O.. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner; New York: Harcourt Brace. [AA, RNH]
Jaensch E. R., and Jaensch W. (1921) Über die Verbreitung der eidetischen Anlage im Jugendalter (On the incidence of eidetic ability during the years of youth). Zeitschrift für Psychologie. 87: 91. [RNH]
Johannesson B. (1939) Eidetische Untersuchungen in Island (Eidetic studies in Iceland). Zeitschrift für Psychologic 146: 161–81. [RNH]
Karger P. (1925) Die eidetische Anlage der Jugendlichen in ihre Bedeutung für die Klinik und die Schulleistungen (The eidetic ability of youth and its importance for the performance in clinic and school). Klinische Wochenschrift. 4: 2247. [RNH]
Katz G. G. (1956) An investigation of eidetic imagery in conditions of hypocalcemia, with and without latent tetany. Doctoral dissertation, New York University. [RNH]
Klüver H. (1925) Description of eidetic phenomena. Psychological Bulletin. 22: 331. [RNH, CR]
Klüver H. (1926) An experimental study of the eidetic type. Genetic Psychology Monographs. 1: 71230. [RNH, IL]
Klüver H. (1928) Studies on the eidetic type and on eidetic imagery. Psychological Bulletin. 25: 69104. [RNH, IL]
Klüver H. (1930) Fragmentary eidetic imagery. Psychological Review. 37: 441–58. [AA, RNH]
Klüver H. (1931) The eidetic child, In A handbook of child psychology, ed. Murchison C.. Worcester, Mass.: Clark University Press. [RNH, CR]
Klüver H. (1932) Eidetic phenomena. Psychological Bulletin. 29: 181203. [RNH, IL, DM]
Krellenberg P. (1922) Über die Herausdifferenzierung der Wahrnehmungs und Vorstellungswelt aus der originaren eidetischen Einheit (The development of perception and imagination from a primary eidetic state). Zeitschrift für Psychologic 88: 56119. [RNH]
Kroh O. (1922) Subjektive Anschauungsbilder bei Jugendlichen. Göttingen. [AA, RNH]
Kroh O. (1924) Die eidetische Anlage bei Jugendlichen (The eidetic ability of young people). Zeitschrift für Kinderforschung mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der pädagogischen Pathologie. 29: 63. [RNH]
Kroh O. (1952) Die Eidetik in neuer Beleuchtung (Eidetics in a new light). Psychologische Rundschau. 1: 257–65. [RNH]
Leven D. (1926) Die eidetische Anlage der Jugendlichen (Eidetic ability in young people). Klinische Wochenschrift. 5: 271. [RNH]
Liefman E. (1928) Untersuchungen über die eidetische Veranlagung von Schulerinnen einer hoheren Mädchenschule. Anhang: Einzelne Untersuchunger an Erwachsenen (Research on eidetic abilities in a girls' high school. Appendix: Individual research on adults). Zeitschrift für angewandte Psychologic. (Beihefte) 43: 111–96. [RNH]
Meenes M. (1933) Eidetic phenomena in Negro school children. Psychological Bulletin. 30: 688–89. [RNH]
Meenes M. (1934) The relationship of the eidetic phenomenon to the after-image and to the memory-image. Psychological Bulletin. 31: 739. [RNH]
Meenes M., and Morton M. A. (1936) Characteristics of the eidetic phenomenon. Journal of General Psychology. 14: 370–91. [RNH]
Morsch J. E. (1942) Further investigation of “eidetic imagery.” Psychological Bulletin. 39: 611–12. [RNH]
Morsh J. E., and Abbott H. D. (1945) An investigation of after-images. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 38: 4763. [RNH]
Nickols J. (1962) Eidetic imagery synthesis. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 16: 7682. [RNH]
Peck L., and Hodges A. B. (1937) A study of racial differences in eidetic imagery of preschool children. Journal of Genetic Psychology. 51: 141–61. [RNH]
Peck L., and Walling R. (1935) A preliminary study of the eidetic imagery of preschool children. Journal of Genetic Psychology. 47: 168–92. [RNH]
Purdy D. M. (1936) Eidetic imagery and plasticity of perception. Journal of General Psychology. 15: 437–54. [RNH]
Quercy P. (1925) Les eidetiques (The eidetikers). Journal de Psychologic. 22: 801–11. [RNH]
Quercy P. (1926) Recherches sur l'eidetisme (Research in eideticism). Journal de Psychologic 23: 702–22. [RNH]
Smith G. (1949) Psychological studies in twin differences: with reference to afterimage and eidetic phenomena as well as more general personality characteristics. Lund: C. W. K. Gleercup. [RNH]
Teasdale H. (1934) A quantitative study of eidetic imagery. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 4: 5674. [RNH]
Traxel W. (1962) Kritische Untersuchungen zur Eidetik. Archiv für die Gesamte Psychologie. 114: 260336. [RNH]
Tripp E. (1926) Observations sur l'image eidetique (Observations on the eidetic image). Archives de Psychologie. 20: 5372. [RNH]
Urbantschitsch V. (1907) Über subjektive optische Anschauungsbilder (On subjective visual images). Leipzig and Vienna: Deuticke. [RNH]
Wachtel J. (1934) Studjum eidetyzmu wsrod dorostych (Studies of eideticism in adults). Kwartalnik Psychologiczny. 5: 394401. [RNH]
Zaworski T. (1947) Akustyczne wyobrazenia eidetyczne (Acoustical eidetic imagery). Kwartalnik Psychologiczny. 13: 156203. [RNH]
Zimmerman M. (1931) Eidetik und Schulunterricht (Eidetic imagery and school instruction). Langensalza: Hermann Beyer & Sohne. [RNH]
Ahsen A. (1964) Eidetic images of parents, their relationship with symptoms and character formation. Paper presented at the Psychological Society, Rawalpindi. [AA]
Anonymous. (1971) Do you have a photographic mind? Current Science 56: 6. [JOM]
Cohen M. W. (1975) Eidetic imagery and oral comprehensiorh Master's thesis, University of Western Ontario. [RNH]
Cohen M. W. (1976) Eidetic imagery vs. language skills. Journal of Social Psychology. 99: 143–44. [RNH]
Davy J. (1971) The Observer. (London) Supplement, 21 March. [JOM]
Didlo J. H. (1970) Opérant conditioning procedures applied to eidetic imagery: a preliminary investigation. Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State College. [RNH]
Dirks J. (1978) Spatial memory of two eidetic subjects. Paper presented to the American Psychological Association, Toronto. [UN]
Ford B. (1972) You may have a photographic memory. Science Digest, pp. 5671. [JOM]
Freides D., and Hayden S. P. (1966) Monocular testing: a methodological note on eidetic imagery. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 23: 88. [RNH, EMS]
Furst C. J., and Fuld K. (1975) Verbal and spatial abilities of eidetikers. Unpublished paper. [CJF]
Furst C. J.; Fuld K.; and Pancoe M. (1974) Recall accuracy of eidetikers. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 102: 1133–35. [AA, CJF, RNH]
Furst C. J.; Gardner J.; and Kamiya J. (1974) Posterior alpha-wave characteristics of eidetic children. Psychophysiology. 11: 603–6. [RNH]
Giray E. F.; Altkin W. M.; Roodin P. A.; Yoon G.; and Flagg P. (1978) The incidence of eidetic imagery in adulthood and old age. Paper presented at American Psychological Association meeting, Toronto. [RNH, PAR, PWS]
Giray E. F.; Altkin W. M.; Vaught G. M.; and Roodin P. A. (1976) The incidence of eidetic imagery as a function of age. Child Development. 47: 1,207–10. [RNH]
Gummerman K.; Gray C. R.; and Wilson J. M. (1972) An attempt to assess eidetic imagery objectively. Psychonomic Science. 28: 115–18. [CJF, RNH, DHH]
Haber R. N. (1969) Eidetic images. Scientific American. 220(4):3644. [RNH]
Haber R. N., and Haber R. B. (1964) Eidetic imagery: I. Frequency. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 19: 131–38. [CJF, RNH, BJ, IL, POR]
Hatakeyama T. (1974) The process of having identified an adult eidetic person and her eidetic experiences in daily life. Tohoku Psychologica Folia. 33: 102–18 [RNH, DM]
Hatakeyama T. (1975) The constructive character of eidetic imagery. Tohoku Psychologica Folia. 34: 3851. [RNH, DM]
Heinerth K., and Nickel H. (1975) Reproduktionsleistungen von 10–14 jährigen Schülern und Studenten nach kurzzeitiger Darbietung einer Bildvorlage: Anschauliche Vorstellungen oder subjektive Anschauungsbilder? (Reproductions of 10–14 year olds and university students after a short-term presentation of a picture: memory or eidetic images). Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht. 22: 148–60. [RNH, KH]
Lamb H. L. (1974) Eye movement in eidetic imagery. Dissertation Abstracts International. 35: 548. [RNH]
Leask J., Haber R. N., and Haber R. B. (1969) Eidetic imagery in children: II. Longitudinal and experimental results. Psychonomic Monograph Supplements. 3: 2548. [AA, KAE, RNH, JJ, BJ, PWS]
Leuner H. (1970) Katathymes Bilderleben. Stuttgart. Georg Thieme Verlag. [KH]
Lin C-S. (1972) An experimental study of visual eidetic imagery of Chinese school children. Dissertation Abstracts International. 33: 1,025. [RNH]
McBroom P. (1970) Is your memory photographic? Philadelphia Inquirer. November 8, Sec. 2, p. 1. [JOM]
Mcllwain D. J. (1978) Eidetic abilities: a study of spontaneous and post-picture imagery. Honors thesis, University of Otago. [DM]
McMains M. J. (1975) The recall of geometric and random figures by children with eidetic memory under conditions of interpolated interference. Dissertation Abstracts International. 35: 3,620. [RNH]
Merritt J. (1973) Do you have a photographic memory? Informative Articles. pp. 16. [JOM]
Nickel H.; Heinerth K.; and Bittman F. (1975) Gibt es wirklich Eidetiker? (Eidetic ability: fact or artifact?) Untersuchungen mit stereoskopischen Vorlagen an Schulkindern und Studierenden. Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht. 22: 259–73. [RNH, KH]
Onizawa T., and Seki Y. (1974) Personality characteristics of the change type and non-change type of eidetic images. Tohoku Psychologia Folia. 33: 8892. [RNH]
Onizawa T., and Seki Y. (1975) Recall of eidetic children. Tohoku Psychologica Folia. 34: 3337. [RNH]
Paivio A., and Cohen M. W. (1977) Eidetic imagery and figurai abilities in children. Paper presented at a symposium on current directions in imagery, eidetic and otherwise, at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco. [JB, RNH, DHH]
Pierro P. S. (1966) An investigation of visual form perception and eidetic imagery in students who read well and spell poorly. Doctoral dissertation, Northern Illinois University. [RNH]
Pollen D. A., and Trachtenberg M. C. (1972) Alpha rhythm and eye movements in eidetic imagery. Nature. 237: 109–12. [AA, RNH, BJ, AR]
Stromeyer C. F. III (1970) Eidetikers. Psychology Today. 4: 7680. [RNH, JOM]
Stromeyer C. F. III, and Psotka J. (1970) The detailed texture of eidetic images. Nature. 225: 347–49. [BB, DCD, RNH, KH, DHH, BJ, IL, JOM, BW]
Wallace B. (1978) Restoration of eidetic imagery via hypnotic age regression: more evidence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 87: 673–75. [BW]
Zelhart P., and Johnson R. C. (1959) An investigation of eidetic imagery. Paper presented at Western Psychological Association meeting, San Jose, California. Cited in Fundamentals of child development, ed. Munsinger H.. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971. [RNH]
Antipoff H. (1926) Un cas d'image eidetique spontanée (A case of spontaneous eidetic imagery). Archives de Psychologic 20: 73. [RNH]
Bousfield W. A., and Barry H., Jr. (1933) The visual imagery of a lightning calculator. American Journal of Psychology. 45: 353–58. [RNH]
Helson H. (1933) A child's spontaneous reports of imagery. American Journal of Psychology. 360–61. [AR]
Hunter I. M. L. (1962) An exceptional talent for calculative thinking. British Journal of Psychology. 53: 243–58. [RNH]
Jaensch E. R., and Mehmel H. (1928) Gedächtnisleistungen eines schwachsinnigen Eidetikers (Memory performance of a feeble-minded eidetic man). Psychiatrisch-neurologische Wochenschrift. 30: 101–3. [RNH]
Jelliffe S. E. (1928) On eidetic psychology and psychiatric problems. Medical Journal and Record. 128: 8083. [RNH]
Kao C. C., and Lyman R. S. (1944) The role of eidetic imagery in a psychosis. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 100: 355–65. [AA, RNH]
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Miller E. (1931a) The eidetic image – an undertone of psychosis, introduction to a future inquiry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 24: 1,223–30. [AA, RNH]
Miller E. (1931b) Eidetic imagery. Journal of Neurology and Psychopathology. 12: 113. [RNH]
Miskolczy D., and Schultz G. (1929) Eidetik und Schizophrenie (Eideticism and schizophrenia). Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologic 72: 354. [RNH]
Mota A. (1950) Eidetismo e alucinacoes; correlacoes dinamicas (Eideticism and hallucinations; dynamic correlations). Anais Porugueses de Psiquiatria. 2: 359–75. [RNH]
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Ziolko H. U. (1953) Zur Bedeutung spontan-eidetischer Erscheinungen in der Psychiatrie (Concerning the significance of spontaneous eidetic imagery in psychiatry). Zeitschrift für Psychotherapie und medizinische Psychologie. 3: 171–78. [RNH]
Ahsen A. (1965) Eidetic psychotherapy: a short introduction. New York: Brandon House. [AA]
Ahsen A. (1968) Basic concepts in eidetic psychotherapy. New York: Brandon House. [AA]
Ahsen A. (1977) Eidetics: an overview. Journal of Mental Imagery. 1: 538. [AA, RNH, DM]
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Heller T. (1930) Eidetik und Psychologie der Aussage (Eidetics and the psychology of testimony). Zeitschrift für angewandte Psychologie. 35: 210–12. [RNH]
Henning H. (1923) Starre eidetische Klang-und Schmerzbilder and die eidetische Konstellation (Rigid eidetic sound and pain images and the eidetic constellation). Zeitschrift für Psychologic 92: 137–76. [RNH]
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Hofmarksrichter K. (1931) Visuelle Kompensation und Eidetik bei Taubstummen (Visual compensation and eidetic imagery in deaf mutes). Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie. 82: 329402. [RNH]
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Klüver H. (1926) Mescal visions and eidetic vision. American Journal of Psychology. 37: 502–15. [RNH]
Klüver H. (1928) Mescal: the divine plant and its psychological effects. London: Kegan Paul. [RNH]
Klüver H. (1932) Eidetic phenomena. Psychological Bulletin. 29: 181203. [RNH]
Luther F. (1931) Die problème der Eidetik Erich Jaenschs und seiner Schule (The problem of eidetics for Erich jaensch and his school). Zeitschrift für Menschenkunde. 6: 401–19. [RNH]
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O'Neill H. E., and Rauth J. E. (1934) Eidetic imagery. Catholic University of America Educational Research. 8: 22. [RNH]
Shipley T. (1958) The horopter in eidetic subjects. Psychological Bulletin. 55: 171–75. [RNH]
Wilhelm F. (1927) Die Bedeutung der eidetischen Forschung für Erziehung und Unterricht (The importance of eidetic investigation for instruction and education). Leipzig: J. Klinkhardt. [RNH]
Ahsen A. (1972) Eidetic parents test and analysis: a practical guide to systematic and comprehensive analysis. New York: Brandon House. [RNH]
Ahsen A. (1973) Basic concepts in eidetic psychotherapy. New York: Brandon House. [RNH]
Ahsen A., and Lazarus A. A. (1972) Eidetics: an internal behavior approach. In Clinical behavior therapy, ed. Lazarus A. A.. New York: Brunner/ Mazel. [AA]
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Blanc-Garin J. (1974) Recent research in mental images: their role in the procedures of perceptive and cognitive processes. Année Psychologique. 74: 533–63. [JB, RNH]
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Dolan A. T., and Sheikh A. A. (1976) Eidetics: a visual approach to psychotherapy. Psychologia. 19: 200–9. [RNH]
Giray E. F.; Altkin W. M.; Roodin P. A.; and Vaught G. M. (1977) The enigmatic eidetic image: a reply to Gray and Gummerman. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 44: 191–94. [RNH]
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